Twitter was a bigger winner than either political party as a debt-ceiling-default-averting agreement was hammered out over the weekend, and everyone from President Obama to Sarah Palin to Jeff Jarvis tweeted their thoughts, turning Twitter into the digital Speaker’s Corner.
In an unprecedented move, the White House set up "office hours" on Twitter in the days leading up to a deal being hammered out, "Rickrolling" one Twitter user and irritating many. The participation created an impromptu Twitter town hall, and a more engaging and honest debate than the White House's official Twitter town hall last month.
Encouraging use of the #compromise hashtag, in response to New York Times social media reporter Jennifer Preston's question, the @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama Twitter feeds urged Twitter users to call, email or tweet Republican lawmakers, but garnered mixed results, reportedly losing up to 40,000 followers for President Obama's feed alone, but still maintaining upwards of 9 million.
Sarah Palin's retort to Obama was widely retweeted:
Speaker of the House John Boehner tweeted a link to a statement posted on YouTube:
ABC News reporter Jake Tapper tweeted a link to a photo he titled "All the President's Men" (including VP Joe Biden, second from right):
But it may have been social media journalism guru Jeff Jarvis who set off a tsunami on Twitter, creating a profane hashtag to voice his personal frustration. "I was angry," commented Jarvis to Tapper's colleague, Ned Potter.
"I had no grand design on a revolution. I just wanted to get that off my chest. That's what Twitter is for: offloading chests. Some people responded and retweeted, which pushed me to keep going, suggesting a chant: 'F*** YOU WASHINGTON.'"
According to Trendistic, slightly over one-tenth of a percent of tweets on Saturday included the phrase "#F***YouWashington." With about 200 million tweets daily, "that would be on the order of 20,000 tweets per hour," said Diego Basch, the CEO of Trendistic's parent company, IndexTank.
Facebook, Google+, and scores of websites and news sites were also buzzing with public comment, but it was Twitter that championed America’s voice throughout this crisis.
Even a seasoned journalist such as Jarvis, a veteran Time Inc. editor with more than 77,000 followers, was taken by surprise. "All I did was spout off after a couple of glasses of nice pinot. After that it was out of my control. It has a life of its own now," Jarvis said to ABC News. (Today, he tweeted a link indicating that Twitter is editing offensive hashtags.)
It’s not just social media that Twitter has irrevocably changed…it’s the very nature of political debate. Real-time tweeting didn't just relay the news, but made the news as a forum to organize, agitate and gather for change.